Thousands of members of the Iranian diaspora from all over Europe on Monday demonstrated in the EU parliament host city of Strasbourg to urge the bloc to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terror group.
Pressure is growing among opposition exiles and activists for the European Union and United Kingdom to follow the United States and blacklist the Guards over the crackdown on the four months of protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in September.
Police said some 12,000 people took part in the demonstration in the eastern French city, with the rally marching towards the parliament where a monthly plenary session was being held.
“We are gathering to make Iranian women and men heard in Europe and ask the European Parliament to carry on standing on the right side of history,” said Swedish parliament centrist deputy Alireza Akhondi who organised the rally.
“Without Europe’s help, without us to be their voice, there won’t be any revolution in Iran,” he added.
Activists accuse the Revolutionary Guards of playing a key role in the crackdown on the protests which according to rights groups has left hundreds dead. Four protesters have already been executed.
A branch of the Iranian armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards are charged notably with protecting Iran’s Islamic system, set up after the fall of the shah in 1979, from external and internal threats.
European parliament speaker Roberta Metsola pledged to the demonstrators that the EU was standing with the protesters in Iran.
“We will push the international community to respond forcefully to the terror that has been unleashed by the regime on the people of the streets of Iran. There must be a strong, global response,” she said.
A blacklisting of the Revolutionary Guards by the EU “would change things immensely, firstly economically and geopolitically,” said Sahar Aghakhani, 26, a French-Iranian student.
The US designated the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist group in 2019 under president Donald Trump.
British press reports have suggested that London is considering a similar move while there have also been indications the EU is mulling the step.
Activists argue a European designation would have far greater impact than the current sanctions on officials and occasional summoning of ambassadors that have marked Europe’s response so far.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in October: “We are also examining how we can list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.”
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Monday, while not giving details, said: “We do not limit ourselves to the steps that I have already announced.”
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